Headmaster’s Assembly – 24 January 2020


This address is entitled “Affirmation” and I acknowledge the song of the same name, released by Australian duo Savage Garden in 1999. The word means the process of affirming which is emotional support and encouragement. It has great personal significance to me, partly because of the lyrics but also in that it was released the year my daughter was born and our family was complete. We listened to this album many, many times in our car and my children eventually knew the words off by heart. My son, all of three years old, used to request the “I believe” song.

The song consists of a series of statements, each starting with the words “I believe” as the writer states his case for what he stands for which is often contrary to world views and popular belief. Many others have written speeches or songs like this, perhaps the most famous being Martin Luther King Jnr’s “I have a dream” speech and Thabo Mbeki’s “I am an African”. In each case people make personal comments that come from the heart on things dear to them.

The lyrics to the song are as follows:

I believe the sun should never set upon an argument

I believe we place our happiness in other people’s hands

I believe that junk food tastes so good because it’s bad for you

I believe your parents did the best job they knew how to do

I believe that beauty magazines promote low self-esteem

I believe I’m loved when I’m completely by myself alone



I believe in Karma what you give is what you get returned

I believe you can’t appreciate real love until you’ve been burned

I believe the grass is no more greener on the other side

I believe you don’t know what you’ve got until you say goodbye


I believe you can’t control or choose your sexuality

I believe that trust is more important than monogamy

I believe your most attractive features are your heart and soul

I believe that family is worth more than money or gold

I believe the struggle for financial freedom is unfair

I believe the only ones who disagree are millionaires


I believe forgiveness is the key to your unhappiness

I believe that wedded bliss negates the need to be undressed

I believe that God does not endorse TV evangelists

I believe in love surviving death into eternity


There are any number of lines that can be a topic for debate as mantras for life but I wish to highlight just one for today’s assembly.


“I believe I’m loved when I’m completely by myself alone”


One of our biggest needs as human beings is to belong. To feel “known and loved”. These last words I found in the office of the Headmaster of a boys’ school in Montreal and described him perfectly. He wanted to know all his boys and for them to know that he loved them. Love takes on so many forms from the love of a mother for a child, siblings for each other, romantic love and brotherly love between those not related and not in any way romantically linked – just a simple deep affection for each other. We don’t often use the word “love” because of our various phobias and fears of being labelled but that is what it actually is. The songwriter though is not referring to love of others in this line but love of self and acceptance of who he is. And that is the crux of my message today.

For us to love others and perhaps to be loved in return, we need to learn to love ourselves. In addition to other people saying things about us that may hurt, we are often our own worst enemies as we tell ourselves things that hurt and break us down. And this is bizarre. We want others to love us, yet we are afraid of loving ourselves with all our faults. We call ourselves names and hate what we look like, we are our own harshest critics when we fail at something and consider ourselves an unworthy son, brother or friend.

Give yourself a break! Accept who you are with all your funny bits and all your idiosyncrasies. You are different from others so don’t try to be like them. Just try to be like you and like what that is. To love others is one of the greatest things in the world. To love yourself is even greater.

“Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Be true to yourself. How you treat yourself sets the standard for how others will treat you.”

― Steve Maraboli,